Czech director Martin Marecek’s Solar Eclipse was the evening’s big winner at the weekend’s awards ceremony of the 15th Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival which was followed by a screening of Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not A Film.

Marecek’s film about two Central Europeans on an adventure to Zambia to repair a village’s solar panels was named Best Czech Documentary Film 2011 in the Czech Joy competition, received the audience award sponsored by Czech Television, and was selected by a jury of industry figures for the Institute of Documentary Film’s (IDF) Silver Eye Award  in the feature-length category.

The Czech Joy jury also gave a special mention to 31 Beginnings/31 Endings by the Rafani art group.

Meanwhile, US filmmaker James T. Hong as the sole juror chose Belgian director Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd’s Lost Land about the fate of the people in the Western Sahara as the Best International Documentary Film in the Opus Bonum section’s competition. “To me, Lost Land is an urgent, aestheticized piece of mourning,“ Hong said. “a lost memory of a lost people filmed in a lost landscape in a lost format.“

The jury for the Between The Seas section awarded its prize for the Best Central and Eastern European Documentary Film to Georgian filmmaker Salome Jashi’s Bakhmaro “for its respect, artistry and quest for surprise.“ The story set in a restaurant in the Western Georgian town of Chokhatauri, which was co-produced with Heino Deckert’s Filmproduktion, had received a Special Mention in the International Young Talent Competition – Generation DOK competition at this month’s DOK Leipzig.

In addition, the Visegrad Prix to the Best Central and Eastern European co-production went to veteran Czech director Karel Vachek’s Obscurantist And His Lineage or The Pyramids’ Tearful Valleys while the Contribution To World Cinema Award was accepted by Italian producer Paolo Benzi on behalf of director Vittorio de Seta who was prevented at short notice by ill-health from coming to Jihlava.

Apart from the Silver Eye for Solar Eclipse, there were also awards in the Industry Programme for best medium-length documentary – to Anca Damian’s Crulic - The Path To Beyond – and best short documentary to Alina Rudnitskaya’s I Will Forget This Day, recipient of the MDR Film Prize and a Special Mention from the International Jury in Leipzig two weeks ago.

Moreover, this year’s IDFA Award and submission to the pitching forum in Amsterdam at the end of November went to the Croatian-Romanian project Gangster Of Love by Nebojsa Slijepcevic, and the Golden Funnel Award for the best developing project from this year’s Ex Oriente training programme was presented to Slovakia’s Marek Sulik and Jana Bucka for their project Bells Of Happiness.

Ex Oriente tutor Mikael Opstrup said that this story about two Roma cousins’ obsession with the Czechoslovak pop stars Karel Gott and Dara Rolins was the project which had developed the most since the programme’s first workshop last March.

Around 400 film professionals – commissioning editors, sales agents, distributors, festival programmers, and producers – had various opportunities during the Jihlava’s Industry Programme to hear about new documentary projects from Central and Eastern Europe ranging from the Doc Launch and East European Forum through three co-production breakfasts to one-to-one meetings in the Project Market.

At a co-production breakfast with presentations by Romanian producers, Emmy award-winner Alexander Nanau (The World According To Ion B.) revealed that he will now be working with If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle producer Strada Film on his new project Totonel about a young Roma boy wanting to make good – to be pitched at this year’s IDFA Forum.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Vitaly Mansky said during his masterclass that his next project will be The Pipeline following the course of the gas pipeline from Western Siberia to Western Europe. The Russian-German co-production between between Vertov Studio and Saxonia Entertainment has already received support from the Leipzig-based fund Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM). 

UK-based Dogwoof Global Sales will handle the international distribution for Ilian Metev’s Bulgarian-Croatian-German co-production Sofia’s Last Ambulance which was one of the nine films in this year’s Doc Launch “work in progress“ lineup.

In addition, Czech producer Jiri Konecny of Endorfilm, who was presenting two projects in the public pitching forums – Jan Gogola Jr.’s Village city and Pavel Stingl’s Eugenic Minds, - received this year’s €48,000 HBO Award at the festival’s opening ceremony for the best documentary in development for Dagmar Smrzova’s The Story Of Love about a young schizophrenic.

Meanwhile, three of HBO’s latest documentaries as part of its Without Censorship cycle will be screening in Czech cinemas from this Thursday (Nov 3) after their festival premiere in the Czech Joy section as part of the “Czech Joy in Czech Cinemas“ collaboration between Jihlava and distributor Verbascum Imago.

The films selected are Jan Gogola’s Rock Of Life about Olda Riha, the frontman of the band Katapult; Vladimir Michalek’s EM & I, a portrait of the composer Xavier Baumaxa; Veronika Sobkova’s On The Outside, a time-lapse documentary about three people leaving prison – all produced or co-produced by HBO -, along with Vit Janecek’s Sinking Plant about labour and unemployment, and Martin Marecek’s prize-winning Solar Eclipse.

ScreenDaily also learnt that production is underway on In The Fog, the second fiction feature by Belarus-born documentary filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, at locations in Latvia.

The co-production between Germany’s Fiction, Latvia’s Rija Film, and The Netherlands’ Lemming Film with the participation of Russia’s GP Film Company and Belarusfilm will feature the young Belorussian actor Vladimir Svirski in his screen debut as a young railway worker wrongly accused of being a collaborator in the German-occupied Western frontiers of the USSR in 1942.

The adaptation of a novel by the Belorussian writer Vassily Bykov also stars Russian actors Sergei Kolesov and Vlad Abashin as well as Romania’s Vlad Ivanov, known to international audiences as the abortionist in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days as the narrator of Crulic – The Path To Beyond.

Furthermore, Gaby Babic, goEast’s festival director revealed that Loznitsa will be the subject of the bi-annual Portrait at the next edition running from April 18-24, 2012.

Meanwhile, major changes are afoot for the festival’s Industry Programme which had been organised in Jihlava since 2001 by IDF.

As from 2012, the 12th edition will be held at a new venue in Prague under the new title of East Doc Platform (March 5-12, 2012) during the 14th One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival (March 6-15).

The Platform will include the Doc Launch presentation of “works in progress“ (March 9), the East European Forum (March 10-11) offering projects for co-production, presale and other forms of financial support, and the East Silver Market with its digitised library of new documentaries from Central and Eastern Europe.

Next year’s Jihlava festival – from October 23-28, 2012 – will still feature industry elements with the newly created Inspiration Forum, the Festival Identity one-day conference which this year saw 20 festival programmers from around the globe discussing issues that both connect and divide festivals, and the Media & Documentary workshop.

Since DOK Leipzig will follow on directly after Jihlava – from October 29 to November 4 –, it is likely that visitors to the Czech festival will have a special bus shuttle organised to convey them to the German event.